Brisk construction work is going on at a famous Hanuman temple site, adjacent to the Seshadripuram police station. This is the site of a 300-year-old temple, famous in the area as people go to it to get blessings and charms for children.
Not many know that this was also the site of a relief kitchen during the great famine of 1876. This part of its history may as well stay buried as the temple made of mud and slabs has been razed to make way for a new shrine.
Run by the sixth-generation family members of the temple founder Nanjappa Swamy, the shrine was razed as it was old and crumbling.
By the time, Ganesh S, curator of Raja Ravi Varma’s works, stumbled upon the significance of this temple during a personal history check, the temple was already gone.
Among the thousands of families that relocated from Tamil Nadu to Bengaluru, many were from Arcot. Among them was the family of Justice Somnath Iyer (former chief justice of High Court of Karnataka and acting governor of Karnataka in 1969) whose grandson, an advocate and history researcher Ganesh stumbled upon the Hanuman temple’s history.
Ganesh, a trustee of Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, lives in a 79-year-old bungalow on Race Course Road purchased by his grandfather, late Justice Iyer. While celebrating the platinum jubilee of the house, Ganesh did some research to trace the history of the property and made this discovery about the site for the famine relief camp at Seshadripuram. “I was curious to trace the history of the house. When I was chasing some old documents and my forefather’s connections with the city, I got to know about their relocation to Bengaluru. I did some research into the 1876 famine as it was related to my family. This led me to the 1877 relief camp site picture and its location,’’ Ganesh said.
“I did not expect that the temple would be demolished.’’
However, today, the history of this place is swept under the carpet. As the premises gets ready for a new temple, the family members who own this property are requesting devotees to contribute generously towards the shrine construction.
From the history books
History and gazette has it that the Great Famine of 1876 that had hit the Deccan plateau for almost two years saw migrants coming into Bengaluru in large numbers in search of food and work. The then British administration that had taken up a lot of construction work had placed the migrants in the work sites and paid in kind (food grains) instead of cash. This Hanuman temple site was the relief camp in the city. The Hayavadana Rao Mysore Gazetteer and the Imperial Gazetteer of India has elaborately recorded the Great Famine of 1976-78, which was also the Madras Famine that affected the then Madras, Hyderabad, Mysore State and Bombay. Consequently, the famine-struck towns and villages of Tamil Nadu near Vellore railway station got emptied — people gathered enmass at the railway station and travelled to Chennai and Bengaluru.